A Touch of Spring

Early February is not spring but the plants don’t seem to know, and even if the weather has drifted cooler since these photos were taken, it’s still an unusually mild “winter”.

pale yellow eranthis hyemalis

The first winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) have opened.  These are a pale yellow version which is always a bit earlier than the straight species.

Although the days are getting noticeably longer we’re still just barely into the upswing of winter.  It takes a while to shift from cooling to warming and these should still be some of the coldest days of the winter, but they’re not, and the weird season has some plants behaving oddly.  Some are ahead, some are unconvinced, and others still think it’s fall.

galanthus elwesii green tip

Up and blooming earlier than ever, these giant snowdrops (Galanthus elwesii) are showing a bit of green on tips which have never shown green before.  In 14 years of growing this one, I think I would have noticed.

In the end it’s out of my control so no sense in too much hand wringing.  Saturday morning I threw on a sweatshirt, pulled out the hedge trimmers, chopped down and raked out the front bed, mowed it all up, threw it back on to the bed and called it ready to go for 2020.  Spring cleanup before getting any advice from the groundhog is unprecedented but the spring bulbs do need a clean slate to show off against!

perennial bed cleanup

Not the neatest look, but by May it will look fine and I’m sure I’ll find plenty of other things to do now that spring cleanup here is complete! 

It was a slow start.  A head cold had me second guessing the work, and the weeks of couch sitting didn’t exactly have me feeling any younger, but it was nice to finally burn off a few Christmas cookies.  That and there were snowdrops to enjoy 🙂


galanthus godfrey owens

Galanthus ‘Godfrey Owen’ is usually up and blooming during our first warm spell.  It’s a favorite of course.

So now begins the usual forecast watching which has me worrying about every ice storm and polar blast which could stomp these early joys.  Fingers crossed it’s not the usual flower frying blast in March and instead is a gentle and gradual warming that encourages the most amazing show of spring bloom that we have ever experienced.  One can hope.  If all else fails I’d like just one sunny dry perfect day to enjoy the drops.  Having it happen on a Saturday wouldn’t hurt either 😉

32 comments on “A Touch of Spring

  1. I wonder if anywhere is having what used to be their normal winter. We’re about to get colder with some snow. I won’t mind snow as long as it arrives before the cold. Your snowdrops are lovely. I think it will be a good month or so before I see any.

    • bittster says:

      I hate to admit it in February but I don’t mind snow much either. Actually I miss it and wouldn’t mind a nice foot or two now before the bulbs and such start pushing up too much. Blizzards in late March are a different story though.
      We have about an inch right now. A little insulation for the next two nights but probably not as much as we need. We’ll see.

  2. Pauline says:

    We too are having warmer than usual weather and also so much more rain, everywhere is sodden. The bulbs however don’t mind, they are popping up all over the garden, especially the woodland, making everywhere look very pretty. I just hope we don’r now get snow. I like your little Godfrey Owen, and your pale aconite, much nicer than the usual yellow.

    • bittster says:

      I’m also hoping you don’t get our snow. We can expect a bit still for the next two or three months, you’ll be sipping your afternoon tea under the pergola by then!
      Godfrey Owens is a nice one. I suspect it might like a dryer garden though, I don’t know how well the elwesii do for you.

  3. pbmgarden says:

    Your early, eager flowers are a cheery sight. Spring is knocking but I worry winter is not ready to yield. Enjoy these lovely flowers.

    • bittster says:

      Winter had returned for a bit, but it doesn’t seem too serious about it. Hopefully we can enjoy our spring flowers in peace this year. It always ends up working out in the end 😉

  4. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    The cleaned up bed looks good to me. It always feels good to be able to get out and “do” something. There are lots of spring plants popping up now. They are freezing their little heads off now. I too have learned not to worry about them. It will be what it is without any angst or with it. Now that is a mouth full of its. 🙂
    My Galanthus are up and at em too. It is exciting. I think that I see a hint of yellow on one of them. The W Primrose is about to show. I nearly danced a jig when I saw that spot of yellow. Then it got cold again. I am now awaiting a sunny day to see if it fully forms. Thank you thank you.
    Speaking of yellow your aconites are beauties. They always disappear in my garden.

    • bittster says:

      The aconites were a pain to get started. None of the bulbs I bought ever settled in and it wasn’t until a friend gave me a start that things began to look up. They do like a damper soil though, and that doesn’t always happen around here. I’ve seen seedlings coming along so maybe I’m on the verge of having sheets of yellow… or not!
      My P warburg isn’t even showing yet. I didn’t realize the others were so much earlier! It’s so nice seeing them coming up, but then when the cold returns it’s even worse lol

  5. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    P.S. I meant to tell you that the English magazine Gardens Illustrated has a big article about Galanthus this month. If you don’t take the magazine you can find it in the nearest Barnes and Noble.

  6. Paddy Tobin says:

    Since childhood spring has begun on the 1st of February, something taught in school and it still remains firmly etched on my brain. Discussions on what is the beginning of spring have always perplexed me and have made as much sense as wondering on which day the New Year began. Old age and set in my ways? Spring has certainly begun in the garden with snowdrops in flower outdoors here since November and we are now at the height of the season.

    • Milder than usual winter for us, too, though as I write it is snowing to beat the band and we look to get the deepest accumulation of the winter. But I have seen snowdrops up (but not blooming) and eranthis thinking about it, also early for here. A “gentle and gradual warming that encourages the most amazing show of spring bloom that we have ever experienced” would be wonderful.

      • Paddy Tobin says:

        Snow is uncommon for us here in south east Ireland – none to date this year and I hope it continues like this.

    • Over on this side of the pond, I was taught that the first day of spring was the vernal equinox, which may have been true in my childhood on Long Island, but is rarely true for my current location in upstate NY. Snow in March and April is always a possibility. I have even seen snow in May, but it was just a dusting and didn’t last long.

    • bittster says:

      If you were to look out the window this morning and guess at the season, it would most certainly not be considered spring! Fortunately I was able to enjoy plenty of Irish snowdrop photos online and I know our time will come as well.
      A problem for the colder climate gardeners is that spring gets fixed in our heads but then the calendar and thermometer disagree. A cold and snowy January followed by more of the same in February is just fine until the first warm spell comes along. Seeing the witch hazel swell and the first snowdrops sprout fires up the spring fever, and from there on every freeze and ice storm is absolute torture!

  7. Lisa Rest says:

    I wish you luck with the forecast. Anything to cheer us up, which your snowdrops certainly do.

  8. Eliza Waters says:

    I share your uneasiness about the mild winter, Frank. We can’t help but worry about the vagaries of winter shocking our plants or outright killing them after all the investment and hard work. I’m with you, hoping for a slow, gradual warming into spring. Visualizing it!

    • bittster says:

      It’s all about your state of mind! A few things of beauty quickly erases the losses of winter. Even a bloom crushing freeze in March seems like nothing in June 🙂
      Well actually I do remember years back losing a nice rose to a late freeze in May. I guess not everything is forgotten completely…

  9. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you, too, Frank. I don’t have any winter aconite and must rectify that. My first snowdrops appeared this week. I’m ready for spring to arrive in earnest. P. x

    • bittster says:

      I can see warmer temperatures in the forecast but still a few cold dips. I guess we’re on the up-swing! Glad to hear you have snowdrops appearing, they’re so reassuring when the weather is all over the place. Hopefully later this week we can enjoy them without wrapping up in a parka to go visit them!

  10. Cathy says:

    Well done for getting that clean-up done! It‘s still early days here, and has been icy cold again, but I am itching to get out there! Hope your spring doesn‘t have any nasty surprises. 😉

    • bittster says:

      Spring always has it’s surprises, doesn’t it! But we always just roll with them and then the next warm sunny day changes everything 🙂
      We’ve been cold again but if the thermometer helps out a little today I’m hoping a few things open up again. Enjoy the week!

  11. It’s still more wintery around here, which I’m grateful for. No sign of any bulbs breaking dormancy as of yet. It’s mild, but there’s a coating of snow on the ground. I do love those winter aconites.

    • bittster says:

      We are back in to a cold spell, but the long range forecast doesn’t look like anything more brutal is on the horizon. Fortunately there’s some sun today so that should get rid of the last snow.

  12. Okay, I am now officially green… with envy, LOL! My eranthis have not even broken ground yet (although my snowdrops did finally appear.) But they are new (Fall 2019) residents also, so who knows. *tick tock tick tock* LOL

    • bittster says:

      Eranthis are so notoriously difficult to start from purchased bulbs, so good luck! If worse comes to worse let me know and I’ll send a start your way, seed is also an option for those who don’t mind waiting a few years, but they have to be sown fresh or they’re just as DOA as the dried bulbs.
      Glad to hear a few of the drops are up!

      • Quick update: As of yesterday, there is ONE single solitary eranthis poking up amidst the 50 that I planted. The next few days are slupposed to be in the low fifties, so I guess if any more of then intend to emerge, that will be their chance. I may take you up on that offer! 🙂

  13. Chloris says:

    Just endlessly wet and windy here. Still the snowdrops don’t seem to mind. I love Godfrey Own too, that’s a nice clump you have.

    • bittster says:

      I hope your storms calm down but so far that doesn’t seem to be the case. Even if the plants don’t mind, they do look much nicer in the sunshine. A friend was just over and wanted above all to visit Colesbourne. Stupid weather put a stop to that!

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